Russell Peters

10 Comics to Watch

Who: Canadian native Peters doesn’t see eye to eye with the MPAA on this whole piracy issue. For 17 long years he’s been toiling as a standup, slowly building a fan base in his native country. But it wasn’t until someone dumped his 45-minute “Comedy Now!” show on the Internet last year that Peters realized his worldwide potential.

“I don’t have any idea who did it, but I certainly would like to take them out for a nice deli sandwich,” says Peters, who has made frequent stops in Montreal for Just For Laughs in recent years.

Though Peters has yet to release his first major album, he’s still able to fill big arenas in far-off destinations — selling out 10,000 Australian seats in 48 hours for a recent Down Under tour is testament to that.

Now, fans as far away as Singapore — a destination that yields the comic a fair amount of Googling — quote his catchphrases back to him. (These include such ubiquities as “Somebody’s gonna get hurt real bad.”)

Peters has also found a rather broad following in the U.S. — he’s listed as the “first South Asian” to headline and sell out New York’s Apollo Theater, for example.

This appeal is easy to understand in light of his material, much of which centers on being raised by conservative Indian parents in Toronto while his white friends got off easy. “My dad was very protective of me,” he explains. “He just wanted to see me get a good government job, get some benefits, because we were a working-class family.”

In the early years, playing Yuk Yuk’s gigs a self-respecting comic would turn down, Peters found encouragement in making all-white auds laugh with his uncanny impersonations and outsider perspective.

And now that the world at large has discovered him, he’s tapping into a Subcontinental market that never had a comic spokesperson before.

What’s going on: On Au. 26, Peters’ hourlong standup special, “Outsourced,” airs on Comedy Central, followed by the release of the full, too-hot-for-television DVD version. He takes his show to India this fall. “Standup’s never really been done in India,” Peters says. That said, he’s bringing a film crew along to document the experience.

Take: “I met George Carlin in 1992 in Toronto. It was the night that the Blue Jays clinched the World Series, and this old man walked past me who I thought looked like George Carlin. Being a smartass, I said, ‘Hey, how you doing, George?’ He was really nice, and he told me to get onstage as much as possible. I took that advice to heart, and I think that’s the reason I am where I am now.”

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